Ballantine's has always been a fascinating range for me, having enjoyed Ballantine's Finest being served in large measures in Madrid Airport and, more recently, having been fortunate enough to sample some of their recent releases of Hard Fired and the new Prestige range I had a few questions to ask of Marie-Laure Morvan from Ballantine's
Prestige… here’a what she had to say.
Can you give GreatDrams readers an overview of your career journey to date and what led you to the Ballantine's Prestige team?
I started my career in the watch industry, working as a senior product manager for the prestige portfolio of Fossil Group in France. After five years, I had a very good idea of the lifestyle and luxury world in the French market and decided to move to London to get international experience.
I started working on Ballantine’s Super Premium and launched Ballantine’s Christmas Reserve. I then moved to Chivas Regal as a Senior Brand Manager for a couple of years where I led the re-stage of the iconic Chivas 12 pack. I was appointed Marketing Manager for Ballantine’s Prestige last year – it was a real pleasure to go back to Ballantine’s as it is a brand that I have always loved and admired for its values and innovative spirit.
What makes Ballantine’s Prestige stand out from other brands? What is it trying to achieve? Who are your core competitors?
We believe thatstaying true to ourselves and learning from life experiences is what makes us unique and this is the ethos that frames our range of luxury whiskies. The depth of character of our range comes from not only theunique taste profile of our expressions, achieved through a distinctive blend of aged whiskies, distilleries and casks but also from Ballantine’s rich history and the many pioneering people who have been part of our story. These harmonious influences are all reflected in our Prestige whiskies: Ballantine’s 17 Year Old, Ballantine’s 21 Year Old and Ballantine’s 30 Year Old, Ballantine’s 40 Year Old, and Ballantine’s Limited.
Can you please talk about what Ballantine’s Prestige means to you and what you think it means to your consumers?
Being part of a brand with a long-standing history and a legacy that remains relevant today is incredibly inspiring. The Ballantine’s Prestige range is so exciting and varied as each expression embodies a different quality of the Scotch whisky family started by brand founder George Ballantine. Consumers are able to find different traits that describe the process of making these unique whiskies, from the importance of the distilleries to the influence of the casks.
Ballantine’s 17 Year Old has a harmonious taste profile that subtly conveys the character of its original distilleries. Notes of oak give an extra depth of flavour, just one of the reasons that Ballantine’s 17 Year Old has been named BestBlended Scotch Whisky by Jim Murray in each edition of the Whisky Bible between 2009 and 2013.
Ballantine’s 21 Year Old is a rich and intense Scotch whisky blended with a high proportion of whiskies matured in European oak, imparting a spicier, fruity finish distinctive of these casks.
Ballantine’s 30 Year Old is the pinnacle of the Prestige range, conveying a perfect balance of the character of distilleries that are no longer in existence and the influence of the casks. The whisky presents a powerful and opulent taste profile with concentrated fruit notes.
Ballantine’s 40 Year Old is a whisky of great depth and complexity that presents luxurious notes of rich toffee and sweet soft red apple. With only 100 bottles available a year, the expression is created with priceless whiskies aged over many generations of Master Blenders.
Ballantine’s Limited is a very special blend of Ballantine’s rarest and most valuable malt and grain whiskies. The expression presents a creamy soft and smooth taste profile characterised by ripe pear and peach and is a Travel Retail exclusive.
What of your work with Ballantine's Prestige are you most proud of and why?
Being part of the Ballantine’s Prestige team is a great experience as we have been busy with some really exciting projects over the last couple of years.
I am particularly proud of the launch of Ballantine’s Golf Club, an innovative online golf club inspired by the sport and its lifestyle, and aimed at those who share an appreciation of golf and a love of fine whisky. Bringing to life our long-standing links to golf in a contemporary way, membership to the Ballantine’s Gold Club offers unique access to exclusive content, invitational events, whisky tastings, VIP hospitality and a range of member rewards. Members also have the chance to meet and play with top players and participate in a members-only global tournament – we have most recently partnered with golf super-star Paul McGinley as the new Ballantine’s Golf Club Captain, which has delighted our fans.
I have also truly enjoyed working on the recent launch of the Ballantine’s 21 Year Old Signature Oak editions, which include limited expressions created with European oak and American oak –they are collector’s items for whisky enthusiasts.
Being able to educate consumers on the heritage of Ballantine’s is really inspiring for me, so I have also enjoyed working on a mentorship programme. The activation will travel the world telling consumers about George Ballantine and his unwavering passion for crafted whisky, as well as the story of the remarkable people, places and events that have been part of the brand over since 1827.
How important is packaging in consumers’ decision making? I love the updated look and feel of your products… what was the thinking behind it?
Packaging is very important – it can grab consumer’s attention and convey the personality of a product. Ballantine’s continues to honour its rich heritage today, which can be traced back to 1827. While reflecting our luxury credentials, our packaging maintains the authenticity and flair that has historically underpinned the brand. The Ballantine’s Prestige packaging is just one example of our brand continuing to innovate and staying relevant today, ensuring that our whiskies are seen as what they are – some of the best blended Scotch whiskies in the world. Our packaging is winning awards with the Ballantine’s Golf Limited Edition recently winning a Gold Medal for Best Presentation Gift Set of a Drinks Brand in the Drinks International Travel Retail Awards 2015.
How have whisky drinkers evolved over the last few years? What have brands got to do to remain relevant?
Drinkers are increasingly seeking authentic and exciting whisky experiences, a trend manifested in the growth of whisky-specialist bars, consumers upgrading topremium expressions and the increasing emphasis on innovative products. In response to this consumer demand we have recently partnered with innovative cocktail counselling service Salts of the Earth. Cocktail Counsellor Matt Uden has created a menu of modern bespoke serves that hero the flavour, quality and craftsmanship of each expression within the Ballantine’s Prestige portfolio, giving enthusiasts of luxury, mature whiskies a new way of enjoying these excellent expressions.
Elsewhere in the Ballantine’s family we have responded to consumers’ appetite for authentic, exciting whisky experiences with a series of innovative approaches. The Ballantine’s Space Glass launched in September 2015, the first vessel made for whisky drinking in micro-gravity and a very real contribution to the space programme. Ballantine’s partnership with Boiler Room also continues to excite music and whisky lovers internationally with a series of events that epitomise the lively, contemporary ethos of the brand.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing at the minute in getting your message out?
Every brand is challenged every day to retain its consumer base. We are very pleased with the feedback we have received from our latest initiatives which seem to have really excited Ballantine’s fans and whisky drinkers, including the Ballantine’s Golf Club.
Finally, aside from your own, what would be your top three whiskies? Does it differ by occasion?
I like Ballantine’s 12 because of its versatility – it is great in cocktails when I want to impress my friends with my bartending skills.I am also a big fan of the new Ballantine’s 21 Year Old European Oak Edition that we have just launched because of its unique flavours delivered through the maturation of European sherry cask. Ballantine’s Christmas Reserve is one of my old-time favourites – I can’t wait for the festive season to start so I can enjoy a Christmas Reserve hot punch with my family and friends!